~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
This post is part of a series on the miracles of Jesus. Each week I will look at one miracle performed by Jesus to explore its meaning and significance. I’ll be using several resources to help me out, including an excellent new book by Pastor Jared C. Wilson titled “The Wonder Working God,” published by Crossway.
For a number of years I have spent time off and on contemplating the word blessed. The words “bless,” “blessed,” and “blessings” are sprinkled throughout scripture from beginning to end. But what does they really mean?
It seems like the term blessing as used today has been largely stripped of its Biblical roots. It gets thrown around for any old reason like being “blessed” with green lights on the way to work or this Indonesian restaurant that has been so “blessed” to be open for 12 years that they will be serving an anniversary buffet on Friday.
In the South the word has taken a whole different meaning when twisted into the seemingly innocuous “Bless your heart” as in “you know, it’s amazing that even though she had that baby seven months after they got married, bless her hear, it weighed 10 pounds!”
Salvaging this word from all of the damage done by modern parlance is a difficult task, but one that is worthwhile. Far more than just some good life event or happy circumstance, this word has deep and weighty Biblical significance. God’s blessings are not trivial and they cannot be thrown around.
I think Jesus’ miracles help us get a glimpse into the realm of true blessedness. As I have written in previous weeks these miracles seem to be singular moments when our broken nature is returned to normal, as if a portal has been opened for a little bit of heaven to seep in and soothe the ails of our world. We saw this last week as Jesus healed the leaper and we will see it again today as Jesus heals a paralytic.
In Mark 2:1-12 there is a story of a paralyzed man whose friends bring him to see Jesus. You may remember this episode as the one where his friends lower the man through the roof in order to reach the Lord. Jesus immediately says to the man “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus pronouncement is scandalous in a variety of ways. First, Jesus calls him “son.” Declaring to an outsider that he is now a member of the family is at once strange but also incredibly revealing. Second, Jesus forgiveness of sins is a big problem for the religious leaders of the day. Only god can forgive sins, so what does Jesus think he is doing? And third, Jesus forgiveness of sins is a big problem for us in our day. Were this man to be brought by his friends into a crowd today, everyone would immediately acknowledge his need to be healed, but very few would believe he needed anything deeper. We no longer see sin as the fundamental problem of human existence.
But Jesus will not be distracted or detracted from what he sets out to do. Not by them and not by us. If Jesus really came to put everything in its place he must start with the fundamental creation order. He must put us in our place. He does this by showing us what we really need, and of course ultimately, that is forgiveness. So Jesus forgives the man his sins and it is the greatest gift he could ever receive: eternal pardon. The rest is gravy.
But we must acknowledge that the gravy is pretty good. Jesus next says “Take your mat and walk” And it is here that I believe we begin to understand the true meaning of being blessed. The first gift Jesus gave that day was the gift of himself, and his presence brings restoration. For the man in the story that restoration came in two specific ways, first in his forgiveness and then in the healing of his legs.
To understand true blessing we must keep this pattern straight. The first true blessing of our lives is Jesus presence. Here is now “God with us,” Emmanuel, the one who came to put all things in their place. From him and the forgiveness he brings about flow many other blessings as well. They are the natural result of God coming into contact with a broken world. Healing, peace, dignity and plenty will all be the outcome of this great work. We get glimpses of them now.
And as the words of the songs we will soon begin singing tell us, there will be nothing left untouched by his presence in the world.
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.